Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett star in director Kasi Lemmons' seasonal drama.
Air Marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) boards what seems to be a routine flight from New York to London, but when he receives a series of anonymous messages threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150million is transferred into an off-shore bank account, he has to snoop out the mystery hijacker from the plane’s passengers.
For the majority of its opening act, Non-Stop threatens to be an intelligent action thriller. We meet Neeson’s bedraggled sky cop Bill Marks getting liquored up in his car before making his way through the airport, encountering a number of his fellow passengers along the way. He has brief interactions with a few, pauses to study others, and ahead of a flight which will paint each and every person on the plane as a potential suspect or a potential victim, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) seems to be setting up an interesting examination of post-9/11 airport profiling.
When the plot takes flight, though, that impression fades slightly, but instead Serra presents the makings of a tense, efficient thriller in the vein of Phone Booth crossed with Air Force One. As Marks begins to receive instructions, threats and demands over a secure network on his phone from someone else on the flight, he (and by extension, the audience) finds himself constantly one step behind the mystery antagonist. Even within the first frantic 20-minute period there are unexpected twists and turns and an unremittingly high level of tension, and the question is whether Serra can keep it up.
In terms of the tension he absolutely can, but he does so by turning the film into a kind of elaborate, high-stakes game of Guess Who? Gone is any hint of cleverness, gone is any attempt to explore its themes below surface level, gone is the pretence that this is anything more than a dumb, fun thriller. Instead the Air Marshal dashes around the plane like a madman attempting to figure out whether the hijacker could be the friendly redhead (Julianne Moore), the angry bald man (Corey Stoll), the sweet Brit (Michelle Dockery), or any of the other recognisable faces aboard the flight - all the while trying to dispel suspicion that he, in fact, is the hijacker. It’s ridiculous really, but it’s also an awful lot of fun.
Marks is the kind of unbelievably incompetent law official who acts first and thinks later. As soon as he uncovers a new clue that potentially incriminates another passenger, he immediately (and often violently) confronts that passenger and barks the reasons for his suspicion right at them. But even as his recklessness rises exponentially, so too does the film’s silliness and it just sort of works.
It would be easy to doubt whether Collet-Serra knows what he’s doing – whether the humour’s intentional, whether he’s purposely made something that’s so bad it’s good – but somehow, despite it all, his slick direction sustains the thrills and ensures the mystery elements remain compelling too. As the film builds towards a bombastic climax, you’re still desperate to find out whodunit, howtheydunit and whytheydunit. The resolution probably won’t make a lick of sense, mind, but that’s all part of Non-Stop’s charm.
Ludicrously entertaining. Wait, no, ludicrous and entertaining; a slice of sublime nonsense.
Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival... The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc
As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to
The best all-singing, all-dancing showstoppers every committed to screen
A summary of the critics and film professionals who voted for the top 50 Horror films of the 21st Century
@Film4 RT @Film4: Kirk Douglas turns 100 on Friday. To celebrate, we're showing four of his classic films from 11am. 💯🎂🎥 https://t.co/T0GKffSkNi
@Film4 At 11.10pm, Amanda Seyfried stars in Lovelace, the story of the adult film world's first superstar. https://t.co/dDh3n5UKiq
@Film4 Our late-night highlight at 1am is romantic drama Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams. https://t.co/1FhU0aMNy4
@Film4 Here is Hugh Grant as Lord Byron in Rowing With The Wind. https://t.co/ftp5XOcDTp
@Film4 And the answer is... Lord Byron! https://t.co/qfEtAIoPIq